Long before the Rolling Stones blared through any radio speakers, singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards tried to master a few blues scales and R&B riffs just a quick bus ride from London Stadium, where they, alongside brothers in rock Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts, delighted in every note they played for their hometown crowd in their first London gig in five years on Tuesday night (May 22).
Five songs into the set, Jagger wielded a harmonica for “Ride ‘Em On Down” and threw to those nights spent “not far from here in the Dalston bars,” stressing how good it was for the Stones to be playing a proper show in the city that bred them, a sentiment he’d repeat several times throughout the evening.
Those nights are a (thoroughly lived) lifetime away at this point, but they’re more relevant to this leg the No Filter Tour than earlier ones thanks to the influx English talent, ripe for torch-passing, that will support the group this time around. Florence + the Machine, James Bay, the Vaccines, Richard Ashcrt The Verve and Liam Gallagher -- who opened for them at London Stadium on Tuesday night -- and more make up that select group, all headliners in their own right. For them to join the Stones on this latest victory lap through their homeland makes for a mega bill and a potent gesture all at once, one that shows the Stones are thinking beyond their own legend at a point when they could sell out a stadium on the reverence their classics and call it a day.
The London Stadium gig not only delivered “Start Me Up,” “Gimme Shelter,” “Sympathy for the Devil” and every song you’d hope to hear, but an opening set from a disciple like Gallagher, who’s just as much a fan the Stones as those in the front row. Cheeky jokes from Jagger popped as if they were exchanged in casual conversation, too: Jagger mentioned that there wasn’t an “American Bishop to make remarks” at the street party they attended in Dublin for the Royal Wedding days before, and made a kind-hearted jab at Gallagher’s expense that played on English football, as Gallagher is a Manchester City devotee and they were headlining West Ham’s stadium.
As such, the first performance the U.K. leg the Stones’ No Filter Tour was homegrown as hell, and the musicians loved every single minute it.
We had a great time at London Stadium last night and thanks to our special guest @liamgallagher #stonesnilter pic.twitter.com/kemOSq6ilX— The Rolling Stones (@RollingStones) May 23, 2018
Gallagher plowed through a brief set featuring the occasional Oasis cut and tracks f his 2017 solo LP As You Were, and the weight the evening wasn’t lost on him on multiple levels. After leading f with “Rock n Roll Star” and setting the full-throttle pace the night, he dedicated “Cigarettes & Alcohol” f Oasis’s 1994 album Definitely Maybe to the headliners and closed with “Live Forever,” which he sang for the people his hometown on the anniversary the Manchester Arena bombing. (Gallagher performed the Oasis tune with Chris Martin at One Love Manchester, Ariana Grande’s benefit for the attack’s victims, last June.)
Gallagher's tone was wry and boisterous before the heartfelt closer, with the crowd growing increasingly jol with every passing sing-along -- the perfect warm-up for the main event, and an ideal scenario for all involved. By the time Jagger strutted down the catwalk in a silver motorcycle jacket to “Street Fighting Man,” the whole stadium was screaming every word and matching every movement Sir Mick’s with his unhinged gusto an inflatable dancer flailing in front your local car dealership. (This is, indeed, a compliment and a testament to Jagger’s bottomless stamina and devotion.)
So good to be home and playing London again. Thanks to such a rocking crowd! #stonesnilter pic.twitter.com/s2agGIFXYr— The Rolling Stones (@RollingStones) May 22, 2018
At this point, half a century and counting into their collective career, the Stones have long since perfected the art a challenging, crowd-pleasing set while adapting accordingly. Jagger still peacocks and prances as he did in his youth and nails the brief falsetto detour “Fool to Cry.” Richards can still achieve more with the bend two guitar strings than many his (also superlative) peers; Wood couldn’t wipe the smile plastered across his face since the ‘80s if he tried, and Watts, ever patient, keeps time with the three whirling dervishes as they return to his kit multiple times before careening f into their own solos throughout the set, even if the time he’s keeping is negligibly slower.
Though their songs are timeless, the Stones are well aware that they are not -- and the No Filter Tour doesn’t ignore the obvious, but celebrates it. When Richards and Wood giddily watched as bassist Darryl Jones thumped every sternum in the stadium with the libidinous pulse “Miss You,” or Jagger relinquished center stage to back-up singer Sasha Allen for the “Gimme Shelter” solo, we were welcomed to share in their joy and the success that magnifies it.
Their euphoric expressions weren’t those rock stars resting on their laurels, but lads who strolled into those Dalston bars with guitars and dreams stages beyond London. The No Filter Tour delivers the hits and the ceremony fans expect, but the first these U.K. shows did more than that: it brought the rock gods back down to earth for a minute, a trip East they were eager to take.